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Korea’s current account surplus tops $41 billion

Dec 30,2009
Korea’s current account surplus in this year through November reached $41.15 billion, exceeding the full-year record of $40.37 billion achieved in 1998, the nation’s central bank said yesterday.

As the current account is expected to remain in the black this month, helped by strong exports, a new whole-year record will likely be achieved this year, according to the central bank.

The Bank of Korea said in a statement yesterday that the nation’s current account surplus reached $4.28 billion in November, marking the 10th straight month in the black. The surplus narrowed from the revised $4.76 billion in October.

“The decline in current account surplus resulted mainly from seasonal factors,” Lee Young-bog, head of the BOK’s balance of payments statistics team, told reporters. He pointed out that the service account deficit widened to $1.66 billion last month from $1.31 billion in October, on increasing overseas travel.

The income account, which tracks wages, dividends and other income paid across borders, marked a surplus but it narrowed to $390 million last month from $559.4 million in October.

“The current account will remain in the black this month, though it will likely narrow further from last month,” Lee continued. “So, the country’s current account surplus will likely top our full-year forecast of $43 billion.”

Earlier this month, the central bank upgraded its forecast for this year’s current account surplus from the former estimate of $29 billion. In 2008, Korea marked its first annual current account deficit in 11 years, as international crude oil hikes raised import bills.

The BOK also expects an annual surplus to narrow to $17 billion next year as imports of consumer and capital goods will increase sharply on recovering consumption and investment.

Last month, goods imports increased 2.4 percent on year, rebounding from a 16 percent drop in October. Exports surged 18 percent in November over a year earlier, led by semiconductors, telecommunication equipment and petrochemical products, compared to a 5.6 percent contraction in October.

It is the first time in a year that exports and imports both marked positive on-year growth. Accordingly, the nation’s goods account surplus widened to $5.84 billion from $5.68 billion.

The surplus is expected to add to upward pressures on the Korean won, which has gained about 34 percent since hitting an 11-year low in early March. Still, the local currency slightly weakened to 1,171.2 won yesterday from 1,170.2 won on Monday, during sluggish trading. Analysts said traders stood on the sidelines with the end of the year near.


By Moon So-young [symoon@joongang.co.kr]



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